“The Jungle Book,” Rudyard Kipling’s collection of fictional stories about the Indian jungle, was published in the early 1900s, and had captured the minds and hearts of readers even before it was turned into a movie. The most famous of the stories in the book concerned Mowgli, a feral child raised by wolves, and his nemesis, a tiger named Shere Khan.
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India’s national animal is the tiger, and it is home to approximately 70 percent of tigers in the world.
Fans of the book who wish to know what the Indian jungles are really like and who dream to see tigers in their own natural habitat can visit Kanha National Park. It is said that Kipling derived inspiration for “The Jungle Book” from Kanha’s bamboo forests and its most famous inhabitants: tigers.
Kanha National Park lies on 1,945 square kilometers of pristine forest, meadows, plateaus, and valleys. It’s one of the 48 tiger reserves in the country and one with the highest population of tigers, with about 102 roaming Kanha on a given day. Kanha is under Project Tiger, a government conservation initiative to preserve the dwindling tiger population in India and to prevent poaching.
The tigers in Kanha are of the Bengal subspecies. They have a beautiful orange or brown coat, with white markings on the face and stomach, and black stripes on the body. No two tigers have exactly the same stripes. Unlike lions, tigers prefer to live, hunt, and sleep alone. They are more active during the night.
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Like Shere Khan, Bengal tigers are aggressive hunters who lie in wait or creep up on their prey (such as oxen or deer) until they’re within distance of one pounce and a single, fatal bite to the throat. They often target young animals. Also, like Shere Khan in the book who suffered from a crippled leg, only tigers who are very sick or otherwise unable to hunt normally attack humans. However, most Bengal tigers generally avoid humans.
Other forms of wildlife a visitor can spot in Kanha are the barasingha or swamp deer, the Indian muntjac or barking deer, sloth bears, and the Indian gaur.
Many travel firms offer guided tiger tours and wildlife safaris that start at twilight, for a better chance to spot tigers and other nocturnal creatures that call Kanha home.
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Travelers who wish to visit Kanha National Park can take a direct flight from Delhi or Mumbai to nearby Nagpur, Raipur, and Jabalpur. Those who wish to travel by land can take a train from Jabalpur, which is approximately 165 kilometers away from the park.
It is best to visit Kanha National Park in the winter, as summers can get very hot in the region. The park is closed during the monsoon season and is open from October 16 to June 30.